ABC News and Beef Products Inc. finally reached a settlement over “an ABC News report about so-called pink slime, a once-common ingredient in ground beef.” The trial began earlier this month after Beef Products Inc claimed the news report “wreaked havoc on its business after it aired in 2012,” misleading viewers and causing “hundreds of layoffs.”
Earlier last month, ABC News, along with its parent company, Disney, announced a settlement with Beef Products Inc (BPI), in order to bring an end to a defamation lawsuit. Few details regarding the lawsuit were revealed at the time, but now details have emerged, including the settlement amount. It turns out ABC and Disney agreed to pay $177 million during the third week of the trial back in June.
Originally BPI sued the networks for $2 billion after “correspondent Jim Avila reported in May 2012 that the beef company was mixing leaned, textured beef product into their meat. Avila referred to the by-product as ‘pink slime,’ and suggested that BPI was adding it without informing customers on the labels.” BPI decided to sue because it claimed the ‘pink slime’ label was harming their business.
When the settlement was first announced, BPI’s attorney, Dan Webb, said: “the settlement vindicated the company and its lean finely textured beef, the product that ABC dubbed pink slime in its 2012 reports.”
But what happened to lead to such a lawsuit? What is pink slime? For starters, pink slime refers to “low-cost processed beef trimmings sold by Beef Products Inc.” The processed trimmings were at one time a “popular ingredient in ground beef and were found in McDonald’s and Burger King hamburgers and in grocery chains and schools” all over the place. It’s created by “placing trimmings in centrifuges to separate lean meat from fat.” From there, “the lean meat is treated with ammonia to remove pathogens” in a process that, according to Beef Products Inc., has been “perfected over years and can produce 10 to 20 extra pounds of lean beef per cow.”
Back in 2012, ABC News felt the need to investigate pink slime’s use in ground beef. During the investigation, Gerald Zirnstein, a former Agriculture Department scientist, called the trimmings “a cheap substitute,” and said that “allowing them to be sold as ground beef amounted to an economic fraud.”
Once aired, the ABC report “created a consumer backlash with a devastating impact on its bottom line,” which is a big reason why Beef Products sued ABC for defamation. The company also argued that “the segment and several subsequent reports were rife with inaccuracies.” Representatives of the beef company claimed they had to “close three plants and lay off 700 workers because of the pink slime backlash.”
In the network’s defense, Kevin Baine, a lawyer representing ABC said:
“We believe in the principle that people deserve to know what’s in the food they eat and are confident that when all the facts are presented in court, ABC’s reporting will be fully vindicated.”
The news network issued another more recent statement saying:
“Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the company’s interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer’s right to know about the products they purchase.”
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